Western Australia is one of the best places in the world to see whales as they migrate up and down the coast. Rules apply to whale watching, and it is important to follow these to ensure whales are protected and continue to visit our coastline.

Rules for whale watching

  • Only operators with vessels licensed by Parks and Wildlife are to run commercial vessel tours involving whale watching.
  • People on private vessels (including everything from surfboards and kayaks to yachts and launches) do not require whale watching licences, but must adhere to these rules and guidelines governing whale watching.
  • Aircraft, including remotely piloted aircraft are not permitted to fly within 300m of a whale, except with special authorisation.
  • Swimming with, feeding or touching whales is not permitted. Such actions may cause stress to the whale and are dangerous to people. If you are in the water and a whale approaches, you must endeavour to keep a minimum of 100m distance between yourself and the whale.
  • Any marine vessel, whether powered by a motor, paddle or sail that is within a distance of 300m from a whale is within the whale’s contact zone.
approach zone

The following special rules apply within the contact zone:

  1. A vessel must not cause a whale to alter its direction or speed of travel.
  2. A vessel must not disperse or separate a group of whales.
  3. A vessel, whether under power or drifting, must not approach a whale from a direction within an arc of 60 degrees of the whale’s direction of travel or an arc of 60 degrees of the whale’s opposite direction of travel.
  4. A vessel must not approach a whale within a distance of 100m (except licensed ‘RESEARCH’ vessels in particular circumstances).
  5. Where a whale approaches a vessel and the distance between the whale and the vessel becomes less than 100m, the vessel master must place its motor or motors in neutral or move the vessel at less than 5 knots away from the whale until the vessel is outside the contact zone.
  6. A vessel must not block the direction of travel of a whale, or any passage of escape available to a whale, from an area where escape is otherwise prevented by a barrier, shallow water, vessel or some other obstacle to the whale’s free passage.
  7. A vessel master must abandon any interactions with a whale at any sign of the whale becoming disturbed or alarmed.


If whales are diving for prolonged periods or swimming evasively, you are disturbing and upsetting them. Leave them alone. It is an offence to harass whales, and they may permanently abandon an area if frequently disturbed.

Further information